My Writing Process – Bloghop

My dear friend Sara Butler, who writes a speculative fiction series about monster-hunting and other awesomeness, invited me to participate in this bloghop:

We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook . . .

So, onward.

What am I working on?

I’m just starting the first draft of a YA contemporary book called The Dark Backward, a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Prospero, a brilliant teen trained by his con-artist grandfather, is the master of a small public high school in Pennsylvania – all he wants is revenge on a trio of boys who bullied him as a freshman. We’ll see what it turns out to be, but right now it’s a story about forgiveness, deception, acceptance – and the way bullying, abuse, and social networks affect teens lives.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My retellings are historical and realistic, but they hover near the edge of being too unbelievable; they’re cinematic. I’m not so much interested in hardcore realism as I am telling a good story. I’m not writing to the characters in my book, I’m writing to the people who read it, and my philosophy tends to be that it’s much more important to be a good storyteller than to stick too closely to what’s real. I mean, if a reader were solely interested in reality they wouldn’t be reading a novel.

Why do I write what I do?

Ha ha, I don’t know to answer this question. Because I want to? Not to sound too mystical about it, but these stories chose me. All of my books are different (in approach, in genre, in purpose), and the reason I write them is because that’s the story that comes into my head. Sometimes I get an idea for a book in a genre I don’t even particularly read that much. If I like the idea, I will write it, because I want to and because I need to.

How does my writing process work?

I research quite a bit. I usually have a few pages of notes and snippets. Then I write a loose outline – longhand, on a legal pad – and go for it. I write “higgledly-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way” as Kurt Vonnegut says, and I write fast. I can finish a first draft in a month or two usually, and then comes the second draft, which is almost always completely different. I basically consider my first drafts a level of prewriting, though I’m trying to change that – work smarter, not harder, as they say. Then REVISION. My books are made in the process of revision.

All right. Enough about me. It is my honor to tag these three lovely ladies in this bloghop:

I met Mackenzi Lee because we both interned at the Friend, and she was (luckily) open to my insistent idea that we were destined to be friends. Her debut novel THE SHADOW BOYS ARE BREAKING, a (totally awesome) reimagining of Frankenstein in steampunk Geneva, comes out Fall 2015 with Katherine Tegen Books, and imprint of HarperCollins.

Rebecca Lamoreaux is an old Pandamoon friend who writes lovely historical romance, the latest of which is called LORD HYACINTHE. She also runs an amazing business that hosts online book launch parties called Loving the Book Launch.

And finally, my dear friend Rae Chang – who most of you probably know as the indomitable assistant and Pitch Wars mentor on Brenda Drake’s blog – but she is also a fantastic writer herself (her latest is an edgy take on Sleeping Beauty called CIPHERS), as well as a skilled freelance editor.

Check them all out – they’re awesome.

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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Manuscript

I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I experience ups-and-downs in regard to how I feel about my current WIP – actually, in fact, with everything I’ve written, whether “in progress” or not. Last week, after getting some notes back from my agent, I had a moment, after opening the Word document and beginning the fine-tooth-combing process of final revision tweaks, of what I can only describe as a wave of loathing.

I mean, I was reeeally not fond of this story. “This is shallow as a puddle. And boring. And every sentence I try to write is more tissue-paper flak around this essential pile of crap.”

Part of it is that I’m one month shy of hitting the year mark from when i wrote the very first sentence for this book. Am I not finished yet?!  The other part is that I have the notes and outline and first two chapters of a new manuscript, and that one, I’m convinced, is going to be dazzling immediately  (we’re in the honeymoon stage). I am fickle in my affections, apparently.

Now, I got over it. I got over it by letting my two main characters bicker for a few pages. I deleted most of it, but it reminded me that I did like this story and it didn’t need to win a Pulitzer for me (and other people) to hopefully enjoy it and make it worthwhile. But it made me think how bipolar this whole process is, and how rocky the relationship between creator and creation can be.

First, there’s the idea stage. The meet-cute between you and your future book. Love at first sight.

first sight

Then, you start getting more ideas and writing them down and slowly realizing this is going to be the greatest book of all time.

letmeloveyou

Then you start writing the first draft.

proposal

And everything’s fine for the first three chapters are so, and then you realize this is ms is so needy.

be cool

And it’s not what you thought it was.

whoareyou

And you get finished and you’re just like . . .

disgust

But whatever. You said you were in this for the long haul. Clearly it’s time to whip that ms into what you originally dreamed. You’re pretty brutal.

brutal

You’re not sorry.

sorrynotsorry

But then you start letting beta-readers read it and OMG! they love it. The fuzzy feelings are starting to return.

youlooknice

Also you’re getting ideas on how to make it EVEN BETTER and again it’s the greatest thing in the world.

perfect

And yeah. That ebbs too. But even though the rose-colored glasses are off, you accept your ms for who they are.

accept

You renew your vows to each other to see it through to the end.

together

But then, surprise, brand new plot-hole that is going to need a truckload of rewriting.

shit

And you never really get to a point where you’re finished, but you eventually arrive at a place where you know where you stand, where all you can think is:

ruin

And:

perfect

 

Because, in the end, we all feel a little like Walt Disney when he said in Saving Mr. Banks, “That mouse, he’s family.” My stories, anyway, feel like family. And I guess that’s why they alternately drive me crazy and make me so happy in the same week.

Envy

I’ve gone to quite a few lectures and panels and classes taught by skilled writers, publishers, and editors. Always, if they open up for questions, I ask them this: “What’s one thing you would do differently?” and “What’s one thing you’re still glad you did?”

One of my favorite answers came from Sara Zarr, during an intimate, 7-person bootcamp. She said: “Well, I don’t really regret any part of my journey because it was part of getting me to where I am now, but I do wish I would have relaxed—and not worried that people younger than me were getting book deals, or people in the same place as me were getting better book deals, or making more sales, or whatever.”

Good advice for us all. Envy is a vocational hazard for most writers. I think this is because it’s so competitive (second most competitive career in the country, no lie), and the reason it’s so competitive because there are not enough readers to go around. You can’t say, “There’s room for everyone to succeed!” because it’s not true. Really good writing is often rejected because there’s no space on the market. Limitation breeds envy.

But it’s hard, right? All I’ve ever wanted is to be one of the most brilliant writers in the world (cough). Thanks to Twitter, I now know I’m not even one of the most brilliant writers in my small community.

I saw this on Humans of New York a few days ago:

"I’m always checking the Wikipedia pages of my idols to see where they were at my age."

“I’m always checking the Wikipedia pages of my idols to see where they were at my age.”

I was so delighted! I thought I was the only one who did this. Of course, I only do it with writers I admire, but the point is still there. It’s a fever, a madness. I see a new book hit the lists and I go straight to the author’s website, seeing if they’re young or old, my age or even—crap!—younger.

Anne Lamott has said: “Jealousy is such a direct attack on whatever measure of confidence you’ve been able to muster. But if you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with it, because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know—people who are, in other words, not you.”

Envy—comparing, festering—sucks. Literally. It sucks the joy right out of writing, taking what we loved about it and souring it. And there’s something inherently chilly about a feeling that is dependent on another’s misery and failure.

But the root of envy is often desire—we want to accomplish something—and how do you be a writer without desire? That same feeling that leads you to send a manuscript out to be rejected again and again, that same feeling that urges you to write another book, is the same source of what makes us jealous.

(I’m about to quote “The Lego Movie.” Just thought I’d brace everyone.)

The main prophecy, part of the repeated theme of the movie, is the claim: “You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe.”

And this got to me, because isn’t this sort of what we all want, just a tiny, tiny bit?

I read this story in the New Yorker, about a woman who says to the writer of the article, unabashed, “I want to be a star.” What awed this writer was not that she wanted to be a star—didn’t we all?—but that she’d say so, flat out. “I thought if you had the gumption to say what you wanted, you’d probably have the nerve to get it. And I was, in fact, impressed by her desire. Most of us wanted the same thing, but we tried not to know it. Such grand wants exact a price. Better to content oneself with the small success.”

Here’s what I think. I think it’s fine—even good—to want to write something brilliant. To be, as it were, a brilliant writer. But often we confuse the desire to write with the desire to be validated in our efforts.

The spiritual teacher Krishnamurti once told his students, “We want to be famous as a writer, as a poet, as a painter, as a politician, as a singer, or what you will. Why? Because we really don’t love what we are doing. If you loved to sing, or to paint, or to write poems – if you really loved it – you would not be concerned with whether you are famous or not. Our present education is rotten because it teaches us to love success and not what we are doing. The result has become more important than the action.”

In 2006, a public school teacher had her students write letters to famous authors, asking their advice on the arts. This is the response Kurt Vonnegut sent back:

vonnegut

You have experienced becoming! Isn’t that fantastic?

So go—be a brilliant writer! Have the gumption to demand to be an artist. Go make your soul grow! Write an awesome poem about envy, then tear it up and let it fly.

How I Got My Literary Agent

I decided to do one of these posts because when I was in a position to start looking for an agent, I became mildly obsessed with knowing the “path to publication” of each writer I read, and was always disappointed when at least some information wasn’t provided, while the stories I did find served as inspiration (such as that of A.S. King and Shannon Hale). Also people keep asking.

February 2013 was the first time I ever pitched to an agent. I’d finally finished and polished a whole manuscript (to death, really) and there was nothing left to do but go for it. I paid for a ten-minute session with an agent at the LTUE conference and was nauseous I was so nervous. Looking back, I think it wasn’t so much that one pitch, but rather that I was owning up to the fact that I wanted to be a published author and this was the first leap off the cliff (except I didn’t so much leap as I did close my eyes and tip over). I’m read Seraphina a few weeks ago, and there’s a quote that describes this perfectly (but is actually describing a dragon hunt; accurate, I think): “There’s the exhilaration of an exciting chase mixed with the fear that it may all end in nothing, but there is never any question that you will try, for your very existence hangs on it.”

jump

Despite my nerves, the agent was nice and asked me to send the full manuscript. I was clearly a bit awkward, but I had an interesting concept (this will turn out to be a pattern in my other publishing attempts as well; I fumble in nearly all areas of this process, but by darn, I do have good ideas). From there I sent query letters to 50 other agents. I used the “Guide to Literary Agents” and agent websites, plus blogs like Miss Snark’s to make sure my query was properly formatted. I’m not saying I did an awesome job, but I did try and fully recognized that I needed to put my best foot forward, even if I was still figuring out what that was.

Some of you may have guessed, the manuscript was Once Upon a Nightmare*. Roughly five agents wanted to read it, but all of them ultimately turned it down for basically the same reason: nice idea, needs some work on the execution. The rest were form rejections or no answers. At this point, I had two choices: go back and rework OUAN again and get it up to snuff . . . or I could move on. I chose to move on. I think a lot of new writers fall into the trap of nursing their one book, babying it, when really what they need to do is write more books. [*It’s still online because I’d put it up on FictionPress before ever trying to query, and when I took it down I got some very distraught e-mails from old fans, so I’ve left it up for the people who still enjoy it.]

So I wrote more books. I wrote a speculative mystery novel, then I went to the UK and was completely blown away watching Shakespeare plays at the RSC and the Globe Theater. I remember seeing As You Like It and thinking, “You could make such a freaking cool novel out of this.” I added the thought to the multitude of notes I’d made in my Shakespeare class last semester of different retelling ideas. But I didn’t really think I could write books based on Shakespeare plays, because wasn’t that kind of cheating? Or overdone? Or laaaaaame?

Meanwhile I got home the end of June and did some more rewrites on the mystery novel. Time to query again! Except I ended up not querying, because I entered it into a contest for adult fiction and it got picked up by a small publisher. Shortly after, I read an editor’s tweet saying she’d love to see a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing. Um, what? That’s my favorite play (not just favorite Shakespeare play, but favorite play period). I had so many things I wanted to do with it . . . which meant, could I actually write this?

I took it as permission and (re)watched every adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing I could get my hands on, and read the play again, highlighting all the best lines, of which there are many. I watched Ken Burns six-hour documentary on Prohibition and read multiple books on the 1920s and bootlegging. My excitement grew. I wrote my retelling faster than I’d ever written anything (though to be fair, I was following the play pretty closely, so it was like having a built-in outline). I was so jazzed about it, I wanted to come back to the story every morning and was sad to leave it when my eyes started to blur from staring at my screen too long.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, I showed it to some readers, got feedback, rewrote some scenes and chapters, polished it up, and decided to query again. (At this point I just sigh and pat my past-self on the head; my excitement outran my patience, to say the least.) I was much more specific in my research this time. I used querytracker.net and narrowed my search field to include young adult and historical fiction. From the agents that popped up, I studied each one more to narrow my list even further. I wanted a semi-younger agent (younger in the business, not in age) who would hopefully be my partner for my entire career. I also looked for, in addition to young adult and historical fiction, an agent who could handle a flexible spectrum in fiction and was interested in high concept books. Nearly all of my books, or at least the ideas and notes I have for them, are fairly high concept and different from each other in many ways.

I sent the first batch of 20 or so queries out, got a few form rejections right off, then entered my ms in Brenda Drake’s PITCH MADNESS contest. I ended up with five bids, in addition to a handful of “ninja” agents who also wanted to see it. Then two agents I sent queries to asked for the full. Then #pitmad happened and I got additional requests from that. I also, as a result of #pitmad, got an e-mail from an agent* I’d already queried who saw my pitch on Twitter and was like, “Wait, didn’t I already ask for that?”

Suddenly, within what felt like a relatively short period of time, over a dozen agents were looking at my manuscript. One of the #pitmad agents responded in a few weeks, and I really liked her. I was hoping she’d write back and she did, asking for rewrites of the first chapter to see if I could take feedback and edit well. This was another case of: nice idea, execution needs a little work. Except this time people were willing to give me a chance to improve the execution. I severely over-wrote and slaughtered that rewritten first chapter; it was terrible. But the agent, bless her heart, saw the effort and potential and offered representation.

yay

Dreams come true! Dreams come true! I was over the moon, but still knew the professional thing to do was let all other agents who had my manuscript know that I’d had an offer. At this point, I was slowly realizing that in my over-eagerness I’d sent out a manuscript that still had a way to go, so I wasn’t expecting any passionate pleas for all future works of genius (cough).

About 2/3 of the agents very politely and warmly stepped aside, citing various reasons they weren’t personally as excited about it as they’d hoped to be. (I just want to make a quick aside here that it’s easy to see agents as these Gandalf gatekeepers between us and our dream going, “You shall not pass!”, but they are truly some of the nicest people in the world.) The last third asked for more time to finish. Of this third, most ultimately passed, giving me good feedback, but one had a full page of notes that ended with, “If any of this resonates with you, I’d be happy to talk, but do know that I would expect a lot of additional edits.” Ha—you and me both, I thought.

I couldn’t quite tell if she was very interested or not, so I wrote back and said, “I agree this needs additional elbow grease. Um, would you want to represent the book?” That’s a paraphrase, of course. Actually when I look back on some of these e-mails to both agents, I cringe. I, at least, can tell that I was a screwed up ball of anxiety.

nervous

In short, second agent and I talked on the phone, lots of her edits did resonate, and I was left in an unanticipated situation where I liked both agents and didn’t know who to choose. I also knew my novel was going to drastically change. What if I signed with one agent, made the changes, and they hated the new draft?

If the cringe-y e-mails weren’t bad enough, it was nothing compared to the second phone call I had with the second agent, where, in retrospect, I think I was presenting ideas and subconsciously trying to wring a confession out of her to admit she would like the changes (before I’d even sent them) and be happy she signed with me and we’d ride off into the sunset. Which is crazy. And I remember getting to the end of the phone call, when she was maybe starting to see through the fog of my crazy, and she said something to the effect of: “You know, I get how important this is to new writers, but at the end of the day, you can say no to both of us. That’s not the end of the world. And if this book never finds an agent, then you’ll write a new book and try again with that one. The fate of your career doesn’t have to be decided in the space of this phone call.”

It was good advice in general, but really good advice for me personally. Plus, she’d sort of talked me off the crazy cliff, which I suspected might be a useful skill for a future agent of mine to have.

Thus . . . I said no to both, because clearly it was important for me to chillax and rewrite this book on my own terms. So I rewrote my manuscript, incorporating the plethora of professional feedback I’d received. It was a massive undertaking, almost 80% new writing. During this time, funnily enough, two other agents I’d queried asked for the full ms, one who later declined and one who I later declined (I only add this detail because one of the requests seriously came six months after I sent the query, so you just never know). Then I waited for the first two agents to read the rewrite and while I waited I cyber-stalked them. If they uttered a word on the world wide web, I probably read it. I’d also made sure to ask them questions about their clients, what they envisioned for the book, are they a member of AAR, etc., etc.

In the end, they both were still interested and, honestly, it just came down to what felt right in my gut, because they were both genuine, qualified, lovely people. I looked at it from a business angle as well as a personal angle and chose the second agent, the indomitable Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, who is pretty much fantastic. I love that she is an editorial agent and is never going to tell me, “Yeah, yeah, it’s fine,” when it could be better (I also like that she thinks I’m capable of making it better). I’m not sure how many writers feel like that they’re getting a mentor into the publishing world with their agent, but that’s been the case with me. I used to read the acknowledgments of books with authors describing their agents as ninja/sword-wielding/super people, and thinking, ‘They can’t all be like that.’ And maybe they’re not, but Katie is (after our first phone call I described her to my friend saying ‘she has a lioness quality’).

[*She was also the agent who I sent a regular cold query to, but who e-mailed me back after seeing my pitch on #pitmad, so I never know to which venue I should attribute the contact.]

So top lessons learned: be patient. Don’t take every e-mail from every agent like it’s the start or end to your life. If you truly love writing, you’re probably in it for the long haul, so just relax. And finally, hold out for an agent that really gets you and gets your book. Many aspiring writers, myself included, are ready to say yes to whichever agent makes you an offer first. If that first agent at LTUE had made an offer for OUAN, I would have jumped on her like a koala, refusing to let go, but I’m grateful for all the delays and side-turns that ultimately landed me with agent I have now.

Writing Spaces and Scarves

It’s hard to justify writing time to the people around you if you’re not, in their eyes, a “professional” writer. And by that I mean you’re bringing home a paycheck for your efforts. Until then, writing takes on the visage of “hobby” instead of “actual job.” People think it’s okay to bother you as you’re clacking away at your laptop, family members will complain that you spend too much time on the computer, and pretty soon writing only happens on your “days off.” (That’s a lot of scare quotes in one paragraph; is my sarcasm being properly conveyed?)

A few weeks ago, I was at Utah’s amazing “Writing For Charity” event and went to a panel about deadlines. It started off kind of jokey, about procrastination and generally how writing makes you crazy, lots of elbow nudging and I-been-there raised eyebrows at each other. But then Shannon Hale goes, in this simple, matter-of-fact voice, “I rarely miss deadlines. I don’t mess around with my writing time.” She went on to explain, not in a bragging way, that even with four young kids, she was more productive than some of her writing friends who had no kids.

I have to say, there was a slight shift in my vision, like suddenly my struggling writer mind (which resembles a clenched fist) wrote X’s over the other writers on the panel and drew a circle around Shannon Hale as the type of writer I wanted to emulate. The kind that gets shit done, in other words (except she’s a nice person who probably never says words like shit).

This means make a ritual, create a space, carve out time, give precious hours up to writing as a humble offering, and then guard that sucker like a medieval warrior. But what if you live with five other roommates (like I do), or you’re a single parent with three kids, or don’t own your own computer, or have three of the sort of weirdly intuitive cats that lay on you keyboard just as you’re starting to write?

Here I use the advice of another writer I listened to at Writing for Charity, Maryrose Wood, who said that life ought to be a ceremony (isn’t that lovely?). She said, somewhat lightly, that perhaps you could have a special writings scarf that you donned whenever you needed to write.

Illustration by Fukari

Illustration by Fukari

This, I think, is a marvelous idea. It’s the equivalent of Clark Kent taking off his glasses to become Superman. One minute, you’re a regular person, with bills and responsibilities and insecurities, then you strap on that scarf and transform into Writer Extraordinaire.

Let me share my ritual with you, since I’m rarely able to write in the same place at the same time two days in a row, such is my hectic existence. I get my Diet Mt. Dew. Much like the Pavlov dog experiment, my brain now literally equates this drink with creative time. I pray for silence, but since that’s rare, I plug my headphones into Orson Scott Card’s Pandora channel “Writer’s Trance.” He’s carefully weeded and trimmed this channel so only classic music plays, and nothing robust or distracting, but almost like lyrical white noise.

Then I put on my purple scarf (which I also spray with lavender occasionally, so my brain further is triggered by this smell, knowing that it’s about to be put to use by writing). The scarf was given to me by a dear friend in Hungary, her favorite, so I’d remember her. Then I plug Anti-Social into my computer. Since I write a lot of historical fiction, I find myself using Google a lot while writing, otherwise, I’d use Freedom. But the list of sites Anti-Social blocks for me is very long. Basically I’m allowed Google and Wikipedia, and that’s it.

Then I write.

And it works. For me, it works really well. So do whatever you have to do, but at least take your writing time seriously. Take your need to tell a story seriously.

Social Media, and Why I Kind of Hate It

So I have a problem. The problem is I’ve been getting the impression that I need an author platform. And I have no author platform. I don’t have . . . one of those. Things. That you need to have. In order to sell books.

giphy

This is not an advice sort of post, but more a Raised Question to the Masses post. I fully submit that I don’t properly understand social media. My author platform is that I really, really like telling stories guys, and I sure do wish you’d read them and like them too.

But here’s my other problem with collecting hordes of followers. The only authors I follow on social media, I do so because FIRST AND FOREMOST, I wanted to. Nobody cajoled me into it with prizes or promised reviews, nor was it a group herd effort that moves through and likes everything in sight, regardless of content. Secondly, I wanted to follow those authors because I first liked THEIR BOOKS, THEIR WORK. The trajectory wasn’t Clever Tweet, then Follow. It was Content, then Follow, then Enjoy Clever Tweet.

And call me crazy, but I don’t want someone to sign up to hear what I have to say, unless they want to. If someone likes my Facebook page, I want them to actually  LIKE me or my books.

I’m not saying social media doesn’t help. Look at John Green or Neil Gaiman, who are social media wizards. But all these different platforms are just tools. We decide we need to use them to sell books then run around trying to figure out the best way to do it. This does nothing without first having something to sell, something worth selling.

Take a look at the top 100 people on Twitter by follower count. Now, how many of them are not independently famous outside of Twitter?

As Tim Grahl points out: Social media is not a way to grow your “fame”, it’s a reflection of your fame.

Secondly, a big enough following simply does not equal more book sales. 

Here are a few examples (taken from Grahl’s article):

  • In a book launch last year, a Twitter following of well into six figures resulted in a couple hundred book sales.
  • A few months ago, a friend had someone with well over 1 million Twitter followers promote his book at a great time of day and it resulted in no noticeable bump in book sales.
  • In multiple tests across many social media accounts, it’s a normal thing to get well under 1% – more like 0.25% – of your followers or fans to take action on a given update. This is just clicking on a link, much less converting to a sale.

And guys. Let’s be real here for a minute. Some of us, true introverts at heart, are not good at social media. Your reluctance, your plugging out posts as a chore, comes through. Not all of us are socially adept, even with the helpful cover of a screen. My opinion is either do it well, or don’t do it at all. Crappy, awkward Tweets, Posts, and Blogs don’t do any more for you than No Tweets, No Posts, and No Blogs.

But I don’t want to completely bash social media. I like it for a lot of reasons. Twitter I like not for promotional benefits, but for the making-friends aspect. Because you only have 140 characters and everyone is limited in the same way, people are much more likely to respond, and you can have quick fun conversations with people that really otherwise might not have answered. ONLINE FRIENDSHIP IS REAL. I really believe that. I don’t like the mass strategy of it all, but I certainly like the one-on-one strategies that come into play.

THE TOP REASON I LIKE SOCIAL MEDIA: It’s important to share the things we love. Yeah, there’s always that person clogging up your feed with useless crap, but I love, love that if I read a really swell book, or I find an awesome independent musician on YouTube, or just anything that makes my heart happy, I have a scarily effective way of sharing that with people I know and like. I also like having amazing things shared with me. It would be a bummer to miss out on something beautiful because I’m disengaged from the advantages of having such instantaneous communication.

That’s how it helps you sell books. But first, you have to write a good book. Something that people will want to share, whether or not you’re needling them to do it.

So, friends. I could use some followers. So my publisher will still think I’m worth publishing. But don’t do it . . . unless you want to. (;

Art Isn’t Free

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Obviously, this topic is sort of close to me since I’m attempting to make a living doing what I love, and what I love is books, writing them and reading them. Something we like to say, especially within the art communities, is DO WHAT YOU LOVE. We read Steve Job’s Stanford commencement address and we watch videos like this, which ask the question, “What would you do if money were no object?” and of course the assumption is to think that means, what you do if it didn’t matter how much money you earned. But in the comments section, someone posed another aspect: I need money to get trained to do what I love, so now what?

I really, really believe in doing what you love, and that it takes a lot of courage, and a lot of people give up on themselves unnecessarily. However, the other side is expressed in this article. It argues that, “Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable-work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce. For those forced into unlovable work, it’s a different story.”

“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege. And that’s what I’m getting at. Doing what you love to do is special, not to be taken for granted. Anyone can choose to do it, yes, but not everyone gets the chance. That’s reality. And yet, passionate artists are taken advantage of. That same article says, “Nothing makes exploitation go down easier than convincing workers that they are doing what they love.”

Especially in fashion, media, and the arts, people are persuaded to do their art for free. There aren’t many attorneys or doctors hanging around the web offering free services–and if they were, we’d be suspicious. But there are hundreds of writers, musicians, and artists putting up their wares online for no price to the viewing masses. Most of them are not complaining about it–and in fact, that’s how they find fans and build a following. Almost always, however, attached to the free thing is a way for you to support that artist by buying something they’ve produced.

Well, what if you’re broke too? If you read a book you loved, SHARE IT. Talk about it! Celebrate the wonderful art that enters your life! The literature community survives because people still love books and still want to share that joy with others.

For some other awesome ways to show your support, check out this article: Be More Than a Reader: How to Support Your Favorite Authors. I will now take one tiny step higher on the soapbox I’m already on, to stand on a mini-soapbox to say: the less we support our artists, the more art is undervalued, AND THE WORLD NEEDS ART. It is (and I’m being serious) as important to our society’s well-being as law and medicine. *stands off soapbox*

So maybe this month you can skimp on one nicety in your life (like no chocolate for a few weeks?) and find a way to make a small contribution to an artist you support instead. (: